Friday, May 29, 2009

Bloomberg Knows "Disgusting"; er. I Mean "Disgraceful"

by Dick Mac

New York City Michael Bloomberg has been a terrible mayor for New York, but in these neo-conservative, he is able to hide behind his undying worship of money and security to appeal to New Yorkers' basest fears.

In refusing to obey the law and insisting on running for another term as mayor, in flagrant violation of the term-limits his conservative co-horts so adore, Bloomberg has mounted a campaign that insists the media discuss only the matters he has determined really matter.

If any reporter dares to veer from the path of Bloomberg's Final Solution, that reporter is attacked with invective and churlishness that make former DC mayor Marion Berry look like an even-handed jurist and orator.

Bllomberg called a New York Observer reporter "disgusting" yesterday, and even when I agree with the mayor, I do not believe he should be calling people names. Edit: OOPS! He didn't call the reporter "disgusting," he called him a "disgrace."

What is left of the media is all we have to provide some checks and balances, and until Bloomberg and his co-horts takeover all of the media outlets, they need to answer to the press.

I hope New Yorkers will vote against Bloomberg this year.

If you just can't vote for a Democrat or you just can't vote for a Republican, consider voting Green; they are trying to save the planet.

Bloomberg To Reporter: 'You're A Disgrace'

The video

This post was edited after publication: the title was changed and the italicized text was added.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spinning The Prop 8 Decision

by Al Falafel

The State Supreme Court Ruling in California legalizing same-sex marriage for those already married - but nobody else - should be proof enough that the left coast referendum process is fundamentally retarded.

This stupidly divisive waste of time and energy - not to mention $$ in this weak economy - ends up in a cop-out decision by the high court, guaranteeing either an ugly re-play of the voter campaign or - best case scenario - setting up a case to be taken by the US Supreme Court.

Though such a case could and should, in one fell swoop, strike down all restrictive state marriage laws in the country , it only comes about because the State Court took the easy way out, tried to have it both ways and just passed off a politically risky decision to somebody else to decide. Why don't they just do their damn jobs and issue a real opinion?

Margaret Cho's reaction is the best I've heard. She said, "I blame Miss California!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Liberal? When Convenient, I'm Sure.

by Dick Mac

President Obama yesterday nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to be the next Supreme Court Justice.

Sotomayor was born to Puerto Rican parents in the South Bronx, New York, in the early fifties, and studied at Princeton and Yale before becoming a member of the bar.

Conservatives, because she is not a staunch conservative herself, may paint her as a liberal and try to pretend she is an activist judge.

She is known as the judge who saved baseball, and that is bandied about as a compliment. In this camp, as you may know, I can thing of fewer industries more worthy of destruction than Major League Baseball. I will count this against her.

She sided with the New York Times in their efforts to use the work of freelance writers on a pay for use site, without compensation. She believed that the publisher owed nothing to those who actually created the work they were selling over and over again. Fortunately, her ruling was overturned and the Supreme Court upheld the reversal of her decision, which means that writers get paid for their work when it is sold over and over again.

It is not clear to me if Sotomayor is pro-choice or not. In a ruling that supported the Bush administration's position, she ruled that it was legal for the Federal government to attach provisions to international aid that allowed them to refuse money to any foreign health care facility that performed abortions. Obama has lifted that ban, so her ruling stands in stark contrast to her boss' position. I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she might believe that a woman has the right to control the reproductive functions of her own body; but, I am not convinced that she is a pro-choice American.

She replaces a justice whose property rights position is questionable. Souter claimed that property could be taken by eminent domain for any reason, including the development of malls and hotels. A Sotomayor decision prevents the City of New York from seizing the motor vehicles of drunk drivers accused, which is a positive step in the direction of the rights of personal property holders.

The hottest issues facing our courts today are regulation of industry and the rights of homosexuals. I don't think I go very far out on a limb when I write that the Hispanic communities across America have been consistently anti-gay. I do not consider Sotomayor to be an enlightened American, and I suspect she will fall on the Obama side of the issue and rule against the rights of homosexual taxpayers to marry. I hope I am wrong here.

Even though America's center has shifted far to the right in the past twenty-five years, I would hardly call Sotomayor a liberal, and she is not an activist for liberal causes.

It will be fun to watch the Republicans in the Senate walk the tightrope of nominating a Hispanic woman to the court.

The GOP relies heavily on the prejudices of Hispanics, especially playing on their homophobia/machismo and their Catholicism. If the Republicans mount a campaign against a Hispanic woman, it might alienate that community who has been historically relied-upon to vote with a knee-jerk reaction to the issues of homosexuals and abortion. The Republicans, with their party in shambles, can not afford to alienate this bloc of voters.

But, then, Obama hasn't nominated a judge who camps very far from the Conservative ideology that defines America in the 21st Century.

Maybe it would be best if the GOP blocked her nomination.

I look forward to hearing about her positions on gay marriage and abortion rights.

Sotomayor's Supreme Court bid in Senate's hands

Sotomayor’s Rulings Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

by Al Falafel

This weekend Americans will stop at some point in their White Sale Shopping Frenzy to pay obligatory tribute to our veterans. Our most somber tributes will be reserved for the hundreds of thousands (could it be millions?) of our countrymen and women who died in service, in combat, or after surviving their tours of duty. The memories of their service and their wars are kept alive by veterans who served with them marching in parades every year even as their bodies age, their steps falter, and their numbers dwindle with the passage of time.

By one statistic I heard in the lead up to this 2009 Memorial Day, WWII veterans are now dying at the rate of about a thousand per day. It's sobering by itself but inevitably also makes you flash ahead to that time coming when no one is left from the era of the last "Great War." The time is not too far off when few Vietnam Vets who will still be able to shuffle along in the processions and parades will be pushing their elderly commanding officers in wheelchairs, and those now dying in Iraq and Afghanistan will be honored by their great grandchildren.

How many lives of those born this year will be memorialized on the twentieth and later anniversaries of Memorial Day 2009? Whatever names will be given to the future military actions whose dead will be remembered then, how long will it be before our gestures of gratitude and respect - for those we will have sent to early graves in battles today and yet to come - can be felt with no need to rationalize that gnawing sense of the ultimate futility of waging these wasteful senseless wars?

Remembering our losses, what can we say we have gained in Iraq and Afghanistan, or for that matter, Vietnam?

Kurt Vonnegut was once questioned about his sentiments behind those brilliant semi-biographical fantasies he wrote like Slaughterhouse Five, which included many references to his real-life experiences as a soldier and prisoner of war during the last Great War. He was asked if the recurring critically satirical themes of his novels should be taken as anti-war statements? Surprisingly, he objected to the idea that he may have been constitutionally anti-war.

While Vonnegut acknowledged the absurdity of war he also considered it absurd and useless to be opposed to it as a matter of practicality. To be anti-war would be as pointless as to be opposed to tides, he said.

Maybe he was right. Humans as a group seem to be as capable of avoiding war as we are of stopping the ocean tides. It seems to be a compulsion of our collective nature. Throughout my life - which began not so long after World War II, there have been continual wars on the planet and not one of them has proven necessary, productive or, least of all, by any means "great."

On Memorial Day, we may accept that war is inevitable, but do we think there will ever be another "Great War" to remember?

Is that really something we should be hopeful for?

It would be shameful to say that we yearn for the next "Great War," if only to assuage our conflicted emotions that surface on these morbid holidays each year. But we must be looking forward to just such an eventuality.

We revere our troops and military machinery and we tithe with extreme monetary obligation to the Pentagon on high as though we believe that someday they will deliver our salvation. Only in this context I think that this reverence for our saviors in uniform is what compels the true believers among us to be so faithfully committed to maintaining the false ideal of the military's moral purity.

The desire to hold our troops to standards beyond what is acceptable in civil society seems the only rational basis for rejecting otherwise good and honorable servicemembers who are known to possess the human "flaw" of an inclination toward homosexual gratification. Only it's not rational. It is, in fact, as absurd to be anti-gay as it is to be anti-war. And for the same reason.

As long as people are sexual, we will be homosexual. As long as there is a military, there will be homosexuals in the military. Always have been, always will be.

"There you go - disrespecting the military again. Throwing sex in where it don't belong! Especially on this solemn occasion of Memorial Day! Why do you have to bring up queers on this solemn occasion, boy? The dead don't have sex. It's disrespectful and totally irrelevant!"

Which is, of course, the point.

Statistically, we can surmise that among those who die in service of our country, there are and will be a number of homosexuals. One study conducted by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network after the 2000 Census, estimated that 2.5% of active military personnel were exclusively homosexual.

It may be safe to apply that seemingly low figure to our heroes and casualties of all past wars as well as those to come. In recent years, especially since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," had those gay dead troops survived and later been found out, they would have been humiliated, their careers condemned and they would be discharged abruptly and unceremoniously.

As it is, having given the ultimate sacrifice alongside their straight comrades before taking a chance on coming out, they are, for once, honored without discrimination. By their deaths, the truth of their and honor and sacrifice in equal measure to all our other dead soldiers cannot be denied or abrogated.

Ironically, it is only after they've "given their last full measure of devotion" that the irrelevance of their sexuality may finally be acknowledged.

It is the lot of those gay men and women heroes that survive even the harshest of battlefield conditions to later face the judgement of a cynically ungrateful and disrespectful policy of expulsion on the grounds of "moral inferiority."

All those who died in service to our country are generally memorialized with a reverence accruing to the fallen as a group.

I guess the idea is that once they're dead it's up to God to sort them out.

Gay Men & Lesbians in the US Military: Estimated from Census 2000

Friday, May 22, 2009

Did I hear the Repugnicans right?

by Al Falafel

This morning I am hearing the news about Chris Dodd's Credit Card Reform Legislation which was passed in the Senate yesterday. Under this bill certain predatory practices would be outlawed. In particular, those skyrocketing rates that the Credit Card companies spring on consumers after luring them into their trap with irresistibly low introductory rates will no longer be allowed.

Of course the Repugnicans are against it.

The reporter may have been paraphrasing the official Repugnican talking points on this. She said that their opposition is based in the expectation that such legal limitations would be ineffective since the Credit Card companies will obviously "have to make up the difference somewhere."

The idea is to stop the outrageous rip-off practices of Credit Card companies.

But Repugnicans insist that ripping people off is not only a right of the free market - for Credit Card companies it IS their business. If you try to regulate them by outlawing those surprise spikes in interest rates they will have to make up the difference somewhere . . .

They'll surely find some other way to rip us off!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Law Enforcement Works

by Dick Mac

I have always believed that terrorism is a crime, not an act of war, and that it should be investigated and prosecuted as a crime, not an act of war.

Last night, four men were arrested by law enforcement agencies in New York while they were in the process of attempting to blow-up a synagogue and a Jewish community center, which action was to be followed with an attack against a military base.

When we spend our tax dollars to fund law enforcement, they can enforce the law and protect the citizenry. When we use our tax dollars to attack sovereign nations, pretending that this will prevent terrorism, we do nothing but destabilize the world and further endanger our citizenry.

There is no such thing as a War on Terror. It cannot exist, anymore than you can have War on Grace, or a War on Drugs, or a War on Courtesy. Wars are fought between the armies of sovereign nations; law enforcement takes place on a local, regional, national, and international stage and prevents crime.

America needs more law enforcement and fewer "Wars."

4 Accused of Bombing Plot at Bronx Synagogues

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Workingman's Red Bull

by Dick Mac

John Wolyniec is a veteran striker for the soccer team I support, Red Bull New York. He has been a workhorse for the team over the years, and I doubt there is any player who has tied or won more matches with last-minute heroics than Woly. In playoff games, on-the-road, at home, at any part of the season, with the team mired in last place or driving hard for the playoffs, Woly performs at the top of his game during every minute he is on the field.

This past weekend, RBNY was struggling, playing a man down, against a powerful Houston team. Woly came into the game and scored a goal in the 88th minute to tie the game.

Watch this pass into the box by Dane Richards, and see Woly battling Ricardo Clark to get the ball in the net!


This season, I am wearing a white RBNY home jersey to every match, and on the back it says "Wolyniec 15"!

Thank you, Woly!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Cost of War

by Al Falafel

"Sometimes great presidents make mistakes" - Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass

By a vote of 368-60, the US House of Representatives passed a $96.7 billion bill for military spending and foreign aid efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nearly the entire Republican delegation supported the measure.

The bill is modeled on President Obama's request for $85 billion in continued support for the Iraq occupation and the war against Taliban forces and Al Queda in Afghanistan. The final House proposal, which now must be reconciled with a Senate version, contains almost $12 billion more than Obama asked for in his budget proposal.

The Senate is expected to approve spending up to $91.3 billion in a bill just voted out of Committee which more in line with Obama's request. It includes $50 million for the Pentagon to begin closing down the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The House calls for no such spending on Gitmo but does come with a resolution that detainees from the prison should not be released on U.S. soil. It does, however, allow for some of the 241 Guantanamo detainees to be moved to the United States to stand trial or serve their sentences.

As both bills were being developed, President Obama made a last minute request that an additional $108 billion be added to his request, earmarked for the International Monetary Fund. This would constitute a US contribution to the expanded $500 billion IMF loan fund designed to assist poor countries struggling through the global economic downturn. As an outcome of last month's summit meeting of the "Group of 20" nations in London, the IMF will issue interest-bearing assets, bringing the immediate taxpayer cost of this loan to about $5 billion for this contribution.

This request was immediately incorporated into the Senate version by Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.

House Republicans oppose adding the IMF funds to the war-funding measure. But they would include $2.2 billion in other foreign aid to the amount Obama requested. However, the bulk of the $12 billion they would add to Obama's budget would go mostly for new weapons and military equipment such as cargo planes, mine-resistant vehicles, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Stryker armored vehicles.

Even as the US war budget inflates, a growing number of Democrats are expressing skepticism about the increase in spending for military operations in Afghanistan.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., Chair of the House Appropriations Committee that produced the legislation, called it "a bill that I have very little confidence in." Still, he said, "I think we have a responsibility to give a new president — who did not get us into this mess — the best possible opportunity to get out of it."

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is one of 51 Democrats opposed the expansion of war funds. He remains unimpressed with Obama's plans for Afghanistan. "Sometimes great presidents make mistakes, and sometimes great presidents make even great mistakes. I hope that doesn't happen here," McGovern said.

"As the mission has grown bigger, the policy has grown even more vague."

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of its version of the spending bill. Most of that money, about $73 billion, would go to the Defense Department to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of which will pay for the extra 21,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan.

Despite the panel's unanimous endorsement, several Republicans said they will try to amend the bill to strip out the $50 million to be spent on closing Gitmo.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Empathy Schmempathy!

by Al Falafel

RNC chair denigrates Obama desire for empathy
By Beth Fouhy –

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has a message for President Barack Obama and his stated goal of replacing Justice David Souter with a judge who brings empathy to the Supreme Court bench: "Empathize right on your behind!"

Sitting in for host Bill Bennett on the "Morning in America" radio show Friday, Steele, a lawyer, said Obama should be searching for a judge who understands the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.

"Crazy nonsense empathetic! I'll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness!" Steele told a radio audience.

Speaking to reporters last week to announce Souter's retirement, Obama said he would seek a replacement who combines an impeccable legal background with "empathy and understanding" for how the law is applied. -- Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Of course, as Media Matters pointed out about such stupidity spewing from the mouths of many TV & radio neo-cons:

"Blinded by the rest of Obama's statement, they ignored the simple fact that immediately after stating that he saw the "quality of empathy" as "an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes," Obama stated that he would "seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role."

When confronted with the President's actual words, those neo-cons put their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes tight and responded:
"Nah nah nah nah na I can't hear you I can't hear you I can't hear you nah nah nah nah na I can't hear you I can't hear you I can't hear you nah nah nah na I can't hear you I can't hear you I can't hear you..."

So what's all this fuss over the word "empathy" about?

Let's get a definition from
em⋅pa⋅thy [em-puh-thee]
1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

Right there in definition #1 we see the problem. There is something "intellectual" about the word, which automatically places it beyond the realm of a Republican's ability to understand. Intellectualism itself is something that the brainless lot fears and despises.

I don't think that definition #2 is what Obama had in mind -- but the goombah fascists in the GOP are very familiar -- by practice -- with "imaginative ascribing to [someone], feelings or attitudes present in oneself."

It makes sense, right? So if the Republicans are against empathy then they must be in favor of its opposite, right? For those unfamiliar with a dictionary (i.e. Republicans) opposite meanings are known as "antonyms." In the case of "empathy," its antonyms are, "apathy, misunderstanding and unfeelingness."

Yeah. That sounds about right for what the Republicans look for in nominees when they have a position to fill on the Supreme Court.

As always, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show has the best take on it all. At the tail end of his report on the announcement of Justice Souter's retirement comes the best expose of the GOP's anti-empathetic bent anywhere. Take it, Jon...
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Justice Is Bland
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wanda Sykes on How People in Straight Marriages can be as Happy as Their Gay Married Friends

by Al Falafel

Wanda Sykes cracked them up at the White House Press Corps Luncheon, as the opening act for Barack (Yo Mama) Obama's stand up act.

Below is a clip from an earlier performance by Sykes - before she came out as a lesbian last year - where she told it like it is about gay marriage.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Question About Gratitude

by Dick Mac

Can practicing gratitude be an exercise in futility?

When does the practice of gratitude become a reflection of mental illness?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Water To Wine

by Dick Mac

Changing wine to water is much more impressive than changing water to wine! Doc Hendley is doing exactly that!

Some people who drink wine are sending fresh water to those who need it. Perhaps you can join in the fun; or, if you do not drink wine, perhaps you could just support this cause.

Wine To Water

CNN Article: Bartender helps turn wine to water in developing world

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Dying Breed? Suicidal Elephants!

by Al Falafel

Dying Elephant Sculpture

The future of the Republican Party USA just looks brighter and brighter.

Yes indeed.

That is, for those of us who really want them to fail (sorry, they brought it on themselves!), prospects that the GOP will soon succumb to political suicide have never been better.

Just today we get this bit of giddy news from

A conservative faction of the Republican National Committee is urging the GOP to take a harder line against both Democrats and wayward Republicans, drafting a resolution to rename the opposition the “Democrat Socialist Party” and moving to rebuke the three Republican senators who supported the stimulus package.

In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the 168 voting members of the committee, RNC member James Bopp, Jr. accused President Obama of wanting “to restructure American society along socialist ideals.

Yeah, Republicans! All together, now. Join hands with your undisputed leader, Mr. Limbaugh, and take the plunge! Right off that cliff and into oblivion!

J U M P ! ! ! !

Isn't that what you want to say? Aren't we all getting sick and tired of their pathetic whiny death wish? Just do it already!

If you think the GOP does not have a death wish then what the hell are they doing?

Their appeal to average unsuspecting Americans has long been based entirely on manipulating our emotions (fear, mostly) rather than on ideas or actions that might benefit anyone but the super-rich. If they had a will to live you would think that whoever is in charge over there might try to capitalize on the positive feelings that most Americans now say they have about the direction our country is moving in.

How long do they think they can survive by making fools of voters, trying to frighten them out of their contentment with certifiably insane delusions such as the cynical urban legend that the US is being taken over by a gang of socialists?

After 100+ days as Commander-in-Chief, doesn't anyone realize that Obama could have done it by now? If he had a mind to stage such a coup, why would he drag it out?

The venerated GOP saint Ronald Reagan of B-movie fame wowed America with his wistful "City on a Hill" imagery. George H. W. Bush had his "Thousand Points of Light." Neither of these meant diddly-squat, of course, and were basically just silly metaphors meant to cover up and distract from their true intentions. But at least those seminal neo-cons were not so clueless when faced with one lost race after another to just go insanely bombastic, railing and voting against everything the Democratic Party was up to - particularly those things that a majority of people in every poll say they support.

Have the morons running that party today forgotten that they would need to win a majority of votes to stay alive politically? That after a while most voters with half a brain who happen to respond favorably to just some of the things that the Democrats are doing will eventually catch on and resent what the neo-cons are trying to pull?

At some point no rational voter will be able to deny that Republicans are just a bunch of ineffective empty headed nay-sayers. Sooner or later won't most of the few people left loyal to the GOP have to wise up and realize how they are being insulted by party leaders who ask for their votes while telling them how stupid they are if they do not buy into the GOP's rabid opposition to all things Democrat with no coherent ideas of their own?

I would hate to think this is giving Republican loyalists too much credit in the smarts department.

Illustration Credit: Fox News, of course

Even as acknowledged by the GOP, Arlen Specter's defection marks a milestone on the path of their imminent demise. If my home-town Senator did only abandon the Republican Party for self-serving opportunistic reasons, his changing affiliation at this time can only be taken as a sure sign that the GOP ship is sinking fast: the last of the plague-ridden rats are diving off in a desperate grab for survival. Those staying on board have obviously gone out of their minds.

Specter, long known as the most moderate Congressional member of the party that has run out of tolerance for liberals, leftists, or independent thinkers, will become one of the most conservative members of the Democratic Party in the Northern States (Lieberman doesn't count for anything).

But at 71, Arlen is more of an old-school conservative, coming out of a time when some Republicans still had an active brain cell or two that responded to something other than a sense of entitlement, greed and power-lust. Back in the day even Republicans were sometimes known to engage in something more than negative sensationalistic smears of their opponents even after losing major contests to them.

As junior counsel to the Warren Commission, Specter cut his teeth on his invention of the laughably implausible "single bullet theory." And who could forget how grossly lawyer-esque he was - in the worst conceivable sense - when he savagely grilled Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings?

But Arlen somehow managed to get that Commission to accept that people would not question the impossibly magical explanation of JFK's assassination which brought the official inquiry to a tidy end. And, to his disgrace, he managed to discredit Anita Hill so thoroughly as to assure a sexual predator's confirmation as the most ineffective Supreme Court Justice ever (see: The Truth About Arlen Specter).

Specter has always known how to achieve the means to an end, no matter how undesirable or premature that end may be.

That even he could not figure out a way to keep the Republican Party from imploding (and taking with it his chance for political survival) is very telling indeed.

One thing the last of the Republicans still know is that Americans, on the whole, do not like extremist political parties. That is exactly why the dwindling GOP is pouring every last ounce of energy into trying to convince their gullible clinging base that Obama and the Democrats are socialists, communists or even fascists. Far from gaining any ground with this last-ditch tactic, however, it is obviously backfiring on them big time.

As the once-dominant party slumps in numbers and influence, a few goofy loud-mouth extremists are left with nothing to offer but more of the same mindless arrogance and gutter-level politics that dragged this country to the brink of collapse under their rule.

Seriously, what little is left of the GOP as a national political party - its bitter dregs - no longer deserves a place at the table.

But if you don't like everything the Democrats are doing, please remember that we have a number of other minority parties besides the moribund GOP to choose from. And we urgently need to realize that some of them actually do offer viable ideas and agendas that may be serious workable alternatives to what the newly dominant party is putting out there. We The People know that, in addition to extremist parties, Americans also very much dislike the prospect of single-party rule. What most of us still have to learn is that Republicans are not just one among a number of alternatives to the Democrats - they are no longer a viable alternative at all.

Mostly what the other (non-Republican) minority parties lack are those deep pockets and a shadowy funding base that allow political parties to gain strength, membership and votes while also leading, invariably it seems, to political corruption. Witness our current reality where neither of our major parties are immune from the corrupting influence of money and power in any sense.

As the sole remaining political superpower, the Democrats now have to be very careful not to try and take undue advantage of the welcome demise of the Republican Party. We The People, on the other hand, have a responsibility to be more vigilant than ever, keeping the Democrats' feet to the fire while they are acting as the instrument to rid the land of this blight known as the GOP.

Ultimately, however, Obama and the Democrats will disappoint us - already have in a number of ways. As we become disillusioned with them as the ruling party, we as Americans have a responsibility to our country and each other to stay alert to - and support - real alternatives in the political arena, rather than just voting against the Democrats by voting for Republicans out of spite (talk about cutting off your nose!).

For an introduction to the array of alternative political parties see: Guide to American Political Parties at Any of the parties listed there are at least as deserving of our support as the Republican Party - which, to me, is on par with the American Nazi Party (regrettably, they too really do exist!).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What's All The Fuss Over A Little Torture?

by Al Falafel

Some people I know - and who should certainly know better - still don't get it.

To this day I continue to hear the opinion that the real problem was the release of those photos from Abu Ghraib that broke the news story, exposing the American torturous treatment of Iraqi detainees. As if it would be better had no one ever found out about how we conduct our invasions of any foreign country because "they" deserve it because "they attacked us."

Do you think I do not want to scream?

That kind of attitude may have been excusable in some quarters in the first days after 9/11 and was bound to survive in those who are predisposed to blind reactionary patriotism that was stoked and exploited by the war-hungry, profiteering forces that had inhabited the Administration after the Bush coup of 2000. But after all we've learned about the rationale for going to war in Iraq - WMDs, ties to Al Queda, yellow cake uranium - all now exposed and accepted for being nothing but a pack of self-serving evil lies - how can anyone separate out the well-known acts of torture from all the other surreal and malicious lies we are still force-fed by the cynics and apologists for the deposed Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove/Rice/Ascroft/Gonzales cabal?

With the recent release of those torture memos it has come to light that this too - TORTURE of human beings - was just another part of their PR campaign engineered to establish a reason for the invasion of Iraq AFTER it became clear that all their other reasons were nothing but bold face lies.


Apparently, most of America is not.

Since the memos came out all the TV talk still centers on whether waterboarding is torture or whether torture "works" or not. We have become so jaded - so inured to hearing of the depths to which the Bush Administration was willing to dive in order to justify their nefarious war-mongering intentions - that we just gloss over the revelations that torture of detainees in the Iraq War were NEVER ABOUT obtaining useful information that might keep us safe or help defeat our enemies who threaten America.

It was all about justifying the Bush-led invasion of a foreign country on false pretenses and manufactured intelligence that has consistently proven to have been invented in order to rationalize and cover up their high crimes and misdemeanors.

Torture of human beings was plainly carried out by our troops and mercenaries under orders straight from the top of this country's government.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rice and the whole criminal cabal then lied - and continue to lie - to cover up and distract from the facts that are now indisputably evident from their own official words contained in the de-classified memos. Those memos detail how our troops were used to force detainees to say what the cabal wanted to hear -- what they wanted US to hear whether it contained any truth or not.

Cutting through all the shit, this is the bottom line and perfectly explains why the Bush Administration officially authorized torture in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions. So perfect that we are compelled to shrug it off with a great big, "duh."

Of course: after none of the other lies would hold any water for very long, torture was all they had left.

It was and is their only hope to find some salable justification of their criminal activities. Since no direct evidence could be found to substantiate their headstrong plunge into the huge Middle East catastrophe, they were "forced" to resort to sadistic torture of Iraqi detainees in order to force them to say something that would help make a case for the US having invaded their country and killed all those people including over 5,000 of our own troops!

Wasn't there once a time -- seems not so long ago -- that when the President and other Administration officials LIED about something an investigation was unquestionably warranted? No matter what the cost, how long it may take, or the eventually futile outcome of such an investigation and prosecution after such allegations were made was done almost by routine.

I seem to remember a few things called "Whitewater," "Filegate," "Travelgate" and "the Monica Lewinsky Affair" on which some $60 billion and up to eight years of hearings, house arrests, and impeachment proceedings were justified by the allegations against a SITTING President for things that never amounted to more than a squirt.

How the hell are we going to let the ex-officeholders get away with their devastating ruinous lies even while Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and their apologists are all over the TV circuit bragging about what they did and laughing in our stupid faces?

How now is there the slightest question about whether there should be an investigation and prosecution of those who authorized torture for purely partisan political reasons and, in the process, sold our entire nation out, ruined our reputation -- not to mention our economy -- and cost millions of human lives and trillions of dollars?

All the chatter about whether torture works, or whether it yielded any useful information (we would definitely know by now if it did) is utterly meaningless and wickedly distracting from this central element AND IT NEEDS TO STOP!

For humanity's sake doesn't this warrant more than a wussy "truth commission?" How can we not demand a very serious investigation of these very serious crimes followed by a serious prosecution of the criminals to the fullest extent of the law -- the International Laws against war crimes?

See the New York Times Op-ed piece.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

by Dick Mac

In 2002 I purchased a Dell GX-series desktop machine. Three months into ownership, the hard drive died along with all my data. When I called Dell I was angry. A woman in Alabama answered the phone and she was really great. She was sorry and if she was reading from a script it wasn't obvious. She investigated the options and determined that I should have a new hard drive. Instead of sending a replacement 60GB drive, Dell would send an 80GB. I hung-up from the call feeling really good about Dell. I thought they handled the situation perfectly: sorrow, contrition, helpfulness, generosity. It's the way I think customer service should be handled.

Since the mid-nineties, I have been using and supporting (professionally) Dell computers. Generally, I think of them as good machines and a good company. I have had very little consumer contact, and the above experience left me feeling generally good about them.

This was my year to get a new computer for home. I have not purchased a lot of computers in my life, but I do know how to shop for one.

I wanted an iMac, but the cost was prohibitive. When I finished 'building' it online, it was going to cost $2,700. and that was about $700 more than I was in a position to spend.

I like the all-in-one design of the iMac, because it really diminishes the number of cords and cables running around the desk.

I went to the Dell website and learned about the Dell XPS ONE, which is their all-in-one machine. When I finished 'building' the machine I wanted, it was actually right in my price range, and I ordered it. Paid in full.

By mid-January the new computer was set-up on my desk. It was beautiful, with it's 24" wide format screen and built-in JBL stereo speakers. Sadly, it comes with Vista, but I would have to make do. After a few weeks I realized that the keyboard was awfully small. It takes me a few weeks to get used to things, to notice things, because I work most of the time and spend very little time with my new toys.

I noticed another problem. Real Player would seemingly switch songs randomly, usually going back a song or forward a song. I thought this might be related to Vista. Another couple weeks went by when I noticed that whenever I used the keys on the right-hand side of the keyboard proper (keys like Insert, Delete, Home, etc.), if any of my fingers hovered above the media control keys on the special XPS keyboard, it would activate that function in Real Player. So, by touching the Home key with my ring finger, my pinky would hover about a half-inch above the "Back" button for the media controls, telling Real Player to stop playing the current song and go back and play the previous song again. Not an earth-shattering problem, but certainly an irritant; and I am totally open to the criticism that my touch-typing has gone to shit the past decade. Still, the keyboard seemed not only too small for my hands, but overly sensitive.

Real Player mystery solved, but small keyboard a failure for me.

I decided to drop another eighty bucks on a Dell wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard with old-fashioned media controls, instead of the fancy-pants heat sensitive controls on the XPS keyboard.

This past weekend I planned to install the new keyboard.

On Saturday, I powered-up the computer and the hard drive is gone. Cannot be seen. Kaput. So I called Dell support. The girl who answered was not anywhere as nice as the woman I'd spoken to in 2002. Sher was clearly reading from a script and her accent was more sever than the Southern accent of the woman from 2002. Still, she was nice and seemed interested in helping me.

She explained that we would try a couple of troubleshooting techniques, which she read from a script and did nothing. This was a very lame script and exposed the call handler as someone who knew nothing about the machine. Still, she was very nice, and diligently executed every step of her script. Every useless, ineffective step.

An hour into the call it was clear that nothing was going to work.

She arranged for a new hard drive to be shipped to a vendor in metropolitan NYC, and that vendor would call me and then an appointment would be set-up, and the technician would come to my home and replace the hard drive. i confirmed that I could keep the existing hard drive for a length of time to retrieve data still there since last week's back-up. Of course, the death happened the morning of the weekly back-up, so we maximized the amount of data I would lose.

I expressed my dismay that a three-month old hard drive would die, and that I believe Dell has failed to live-up to their side of our agreement. i told her that the last time this happened, Dell kindly sent a superior hard drive as a token of their appreciation of the situation. She made it perfectly clear, by reading the same script entry over and over again, that I would get only the disk that needed replacement and nothing further would be forthcoming.

That pissed me off, but I thanked her and moved on with my day.

When I returned from the day's errands, I called Dell Customer Service to explain my disappointment with the machine, the keyboard in particular and the dead hard drive. A man with a very heavy, almost unintelligible, accent explained that a replacement hard drive would be sent. I acknowledged that. He then said that I ordered that keyboard myself and if I didn't want it I shouldn't have ordered it.

Holy crap! I couldn't believe he was taking this position. I cannot believe that Dell trains their people to blame the customer; but, perhaps they do.

I explained that it was the XPS keyboard that came with the unit and was described as particular and specific to the model.

He became increasingly dismissive, and had no interest in my opinion of the machine or my feelings about this experience.

I am beside myself about being summarily dismissed by Dell, after I spent two grand on a machine that doesn't work three months later.

I will never buy another Dell machine and I will save my pennies to replace the crappy XPS ONE 24 currently in a box in my apartment.

Don't Buy Dell! Purchase a machine from a better manufacturer and try to find one that hires Americans!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ah, Tradition!

by Al Falafel

In 1959 Miss Oklahoma, Anita Bryant went on to be named second runner-up in the Miss America Contest.

In 1977, Anita Bryant launched the "Save Our Children" campaign in Dade County Florida after the local government extended legal protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation to include "sexual orientation," which gave queers of the time a modicum of security in a hostile homophobic environment.

In 2009, the reigning Miss California loses the top spot in the Miss America Contest and immediately launches a campaign to promote homophobia by joining forces with the contemporary movement to "Save Our Straight Marriages" even before she has a chance to enjoy life as a D-list celebrity and orange juice queen like Bryant did.

Carrie Prejean ought to talk to Anita Bryant before letting herself be used by the hateful forces trying to keep same-sex couples from marrying. But then she would have to find the rock of obscurity that Anita crawled under after her marriage was ruined and her lucrative contract with the Florida orange growers association was revoked for her being so obviously retarded.

Miss California: your 15 minutes of fame is up. Please join Ms Bryant and the other high-profile losers who chose to open their damn fool mouths instead of just doing your bimbo best to stand there, pose and give hard-ons to straight men.